Sunday, March 10, 2013

Linguine and Clams

This is a family recipe (FR). My dad has made this a thousand times and has long been one of his signature dishes to serve visitors. It has become one my signature dishes as well. For many years, I stuck to a rather simple preparation and set of ingredients. Over the last few years, I've strayed, tossing in  this and that for exploration. The recipe is fairly conducive and robust to tweaking. I almost always use linguine though, and use fettucine the rare times that I don't. Never spaghetti or angel hair or any shaped pasta. No, got to go with linguine on this one. Its best with a combo of fresh and canned whole baby clams. I often use just use canned chopped or whole (not minced).

The following recipe is for about 4 servings or for two-three people with good appetites.
(lets get real here, who eats only 2 oz dry of pasta for dinner? Even on WeightWatchers I do  3 oz)

Double recipe for 4-6 people.


  • 8 oz (dry) linguine
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil (save some for finishing)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 medium or so choppped yellow onion (I like onion, so I may use a whole large)
  • ~ 6 oz sliced mushrooms,( I like them noticeable, but not too mushroomy, wild milds like oyster, chantrelle or hedgehogs are good too).
  • ~1 cup white wine
  • pinch oregano
  • salt
  • 1-  6 oz can chopped clams with juice (use only USA brands like Snow's)
  •       + optional ~1/2 lb of hardshell clams
  • ~1/3 cup sliced black olives (the blacks really tie this dish in both in color and flavor accents)
  • chopped parsley (either type but I go light on Italian and like the curly leaf a better in this recipe)
chopped zuchini
thinly sliced peices of red bell pepper
 grape or cherry tomatoes halved
maybe a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes
lemon pepper
tab of butter (mmm!)

Garnish with:
Fresh grated Pecorino Romano (because I like it better than padana or reggiano)
Crushed red-pepper (adds the perfect spicy zing)
Dashes of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Use a big enough non-reactive saute or sautoir pan on medium heat, add oil, when oil is warm add garlic halves, saute gently until just beggining to brown, remove. Add onions sweat down a bit, (at this point add optional veggies, if you are using such as zuchini, you'll have make a call on when and how long they'll need to cook) add mushrooms cook down some more (some shrooms tend to dry out the pan a bit until they release, so go easy on the heat at this point, but I add then at this point only because I don't like overcooked to nothing mushrooms).  Add the parsely/herbs.  Add wine and bring to boil, let off some of the alcohol, then add the clams, juice and olives.  Bring just up to boil then reduce to light simmer, cover. At this point you really don't need to cook this anymore, let it sit just at simmer or lower for awhile to flavor meld. If using hardshell clams throw those in with the wine so the steaming wine cooks them a bit or cook separate and add at end. You can also add the cooked (al dente) and drained pasta to the whole deal and cook it some more to give the pasta a bit of extra flavor. Its how the experts do it. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

One of my fondest childhood treats. I was the happiest little kid on the planet when my mom made these during my  spoiled-only-child era. Reese's mini Peanut butter cups are still my favorite candy at Halloween and Christmas. Use of the paraffin wax is optional, and the only thing I can find on that is that it is used for aesthics and firmness.  

1 cup butter
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
12 oz peanut butter (probably smooth) 

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4-1/2 cake paraffin wax (optional)

Crush cracker crumbs with rolling pin between two sheets of waxed paper. Put in largest bowl, add rest of ingredients, mix with hands. roll into balls a bit smaller than walnuts. Put on waxpaper covered baking sheets. 

Melt the chocolate chips (and grated wax, if using) into top of double boiler and melt together over low heat (gently boiling water). Drop balls into chocolate about five at a time. Roll to coat well, remove carefully and put back on wax paper-covered baking sheet  (go slow let them slip off the fork by themselves for a more professional coating appearances). 

Put in refrigerator to harden. Store in freezer or refrigerator but may be stored at room temperature.

Later in life, when I was working at the Armin F. Koernig hatchery in 1987, a coworker figured out how to make a really good knock-off peanut butter cup in the microwave. Will post that some other time.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

How I Make Sourdough Pancakes


While I was working at the Wally Noerenberg Salmon Hatchery in Prince William Sound, Alaska, (at the time the largest salmon hatchery in North America) the hatchery manager was suddenly faced with a crisis. A 12-person construction crew had arrived to finish the living quarters and was going to be living on site and along with the 10 person hatchery staff. Something needed to be done about providing an orderly meal process. "Is there anybody here who would like to be the cook for 6 weeks?" My hand was up first. The manager quickly assessed whether I was kidding and if I could pull this off. I excitedly gave him a brief and very confident run-down of my time on the lines of two restaurants, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was hired. Well, transfered really, same pay, but a few more hours. But I had no idea what I was getting into.

One of the interesting aspects of that job is that I inherited a 5-gallon bucket of sourdough, that I had no idea what to do with. One of the carpenters on the construction crew was very versed in culinary arts as a hobby, and was quick to offer me advice, after all he had a stake in this too. He handed me the Silver Palate cookbook (he just happen to have with him) and rather insisted that I start making bread too. (In addition to stewed figs and arugula salads with cherry something or rather). He also handed me a hand written recipe torn from a notebook, how to make sourdough pancakes. I have been making this original recipe since 1988:

My standard sourdough recipe will make about 8 good sized cakes. 

2 cups of sourdough that was fed the night before at room temperature is bubbly and fairly thick (batter has just a bit of stringy/gooiness. It will thin and weaken as you add the following ingredients.

Combine well the following then add to sourdough:

2 large eggs
2 tbs vegetable oil (eggs emulsify the oil so they should go together)
2 tbs white sugar
2 tsp salt (adjust to taste)

Get pan/griddle medium hot or so (they should cook pretty quick without burning, just very light thin sheen of oil in the pan if any)

Immediately before making, add just enough water to ~1.5-2 tbs tsp of baking soda to make pasty or slight liquidy (if your sourdough mix seems too thick to pour well, here's where you can adjust water. )
Thoroughly and quickly Mix soda mix into sourdough, it will start to bubble and rise, like a child's first chemistry experiment.

Pour batter into pan or grill to make cakes, I like pretty big ones about 6-7".
Top with real maple syrup and butter, served with a couple slices crispy hickory smoked bacon... you just can't beat that!